(AFP) – The spectre of one of the most infamous episodes in World Cup history looms over Germany and the United States as they clash Thursday for a place in the last 16.
The two teams each have four points heading into their final Group G match and a draw in Recife would see both qualify at the expense of Portugal and Ghana, who play in Brasilia.
The sense of intrigue has been heightened by the fact that Germany coach Joachim Loew and the United States’ boss Jurgen Klinsmann are old friends.
The match scenario has evoked memories of a notorious 1982 World Cup game between Austria and West Germany.
That match in the Spanish city of Gijon ended in controversy after the two sides effectively conspired to secure a 1-0 victory for the Germans, allowing them to qualify ahead of Algeria.
The shockwaves from that encounter continue to be felt today.
FIFA subsequently changed the rules, ordering that all final games in the group phase of the World Cup should kick-off simultaenously.
Press conferences for Germany and the United States this week have been littered with references to the 1982 scandal, with Klinsmann forcefully rejecting any suggestion of an arrangement this time.
“You’re talking about a game that is decades ago,” Klinsmann said when asked about the match known as the “Disgrace of Gijon.”
“That is only a part of Germany’s history and not part of the United States’ history. I think if you look at the past of the US team, we always try to make things happen,” Klinsmann added.
“We have that fighting spirit, and we give everything in every game. We will go to Recife and we will give everything to beat Germany. That is our goal.”
Germany’s coaching staff and players also dismiss repeated questions about the possibility of anything untoward.
“I can only say a concrete ‘no’, we’ve already said we want to win the game and that’s how we’ll play over 90 minutes,” assistant coach Hansi Flick said.
Germany’s centre back Mats Hummels said the Germans had no interest in anything other than a victory.
“It would be unsportsmanlike to do that and not fair, besides we want to win the game,” he added.
“We’re not playing for any result other than a victory.”
Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff also dismissed the possibility of collusion to. “We want to win. Everything else is uninteresting.”
A draw on Thursday would see Germany finish on top of Group G, ahead of the United States on goal difference.
Klinsmann’s side are still kicking themselves over their failure to clinch a remarkable qualification on Sunday in their thrilling 2-2 draw with Portugal.
A brilliant header by Portugal‘s Silvestre Varela in the final seconds of stoppage time denied the the United States a win which would have seen them qualify.
“We did so much work and we were almost there already, apart from this little phase (against Portugal) we were there to be already qualified for the knock-out stage,” Klinsmann said.